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2007 03 26
The Death Of Net Neutrality

The Internet -- as we commonly use it today -- has been around now for about fifteen years. To say that it has changed the way we do things is to understate the obvious. Virtually every component of knowledge-driven human exchange has or will be influenced by this remarkable communications platform. The reason why is partly technical to be sure, but the underlying technology is not the only reason. If the Net had not been conceived of as a fundamentally democratic system where no node had dominance over another or no circuit hierarchical influence over a competitor, then it would not be as influential as it is today. The Internet has given us the power to change the world for the better through the rapid exchange of ideas and information. Look at the http://www.wikipedia.com as a classic representation of this ideal.

Some economists and business theorists argue that the Internet represents one of the greatest wealth generating opportunities ever.

All is not good in Net-land though. There are large corporate and governmental forces who don't like the idea that you can phone Australia for virtually nothing using your Skype connection or bloggers with open-source news networks, for example, can influence elections. It is funny how companies embrace innovation and "free market" ideas when they can dominate but revile those things when their companies have to change or be superceded.

A few big companies do not want to be dissintermediated, so they've come up with a plan.

Their scheme goes something like this: You will have to pay more to ensure your circuits can effectively carry VoIP transmissions. Or, certain kinds of content will only be available to you if you pay more. Right now, everyone has access to the same content. If those arguing for a tiered system get their way this will no longer be the case. A great experiment in social democracy will soon whither into clusters of have and have nots.

Paradoxically, this may give our greatest global competitors a huge advantage if they, wisely, choose to keep their systems democratically open. You do not have to be a business innovation theorist to know that open systems with bottom up information flows and equitable knowledge exchange will kick the ass of closed, controlled systems every day.

The people at Reading Toronto ask you to let your politicians know that you want Net-Neutraility. For more information on the topic go to netneutrality.ca. Also take a look at Will Pate's posting and video on the same subject.

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 03/26 at 12:37 PM

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